Zimbabweans cast votes in referendum on a reformed constitution, early turnout brisk

Zimbabweans have begun casting ballots in a one-day referendum on a new constitution that all main political parties have backed, urging their supporters to vote 'Yes' to accept the 170-page draft document.

Polling officials said Saturday polling was brisk in populous districts after voting stations opened at 7.00 a.m. (0500 GMT) across the country. Small knots of voters turned out early in remote areas and less populated or wealthier suburbs.

The proposed constitution reduces the entrenched powers of Zimbabwe's president and includes a range of democratic reforms demanded by regional mediators in Zimbabwe's decade-long political and economic crisis.

Voting day on Saturday was announced exactly a month ago. About 9,400 voting stations have been set up and 12 million ballot papers have been printed. Results are expected within five days.